By Freya Cox
Day one: Instead of learning Mandarin at Fudan University in Shanghai, I am writing in self-isolation at my parents’ house in Tasmania. Not quite the Saturday night I would have foreseen a few months ago. This year, I received a prestigious undergraduate scholarship, sponsoring me to study and intern in the Asia Pacific. In January, I was interning with a law firm in Singapore, but by the time I was meant to begin studying in China, my exchange had been cancelled due to coronavirus.
I stayed on in Singapore, for weeks navigating the constant build-up of pressure as the virus spread, until on Wednesday I woke up to an email informing me I had to return to Australia immediately. I packed up my apartment, jumped on my overflowing suitcase to force it to close, stayed up all night saying goodbye to friends, and left the next day. Holding myself together in Changi Airport wasn’t easy as I saw how many flights were cancelled and prayed mine wouldn’t be next. When I stepped on the plane and heard the Australian accent of the man checking boarding passes, I nearly cried. The hard thing was realising that my busy year of travel and adventure had come crashing to an end, and now I barely had anything to do. On my first day of self-isolation I was too exhausted to worry about that though; I just showered and slept.
Day two: I woke up to the feeling of months stretching ahead of me, knowing that everything I'd planned was not going to happen. After Singapore, I’d organised an internship with a legal NGO in Myanmar. Instead, I sit on my bed back home, trying to work out what to do with myself for the foreseeable future. I’d delayed my university degree to intern this semester. Now, I enrol late in two law subjects online – Corporations Law and Administration Law - that should give me something to do. Before coronavirus, I would have said those courses sound about as dry as old toast – but now they’re my reason for getting out of bed in the morning. My Facebook feed is a continual flood of depressing and frightening stories, people losing their jobs and businesses closing, friends releasing their frustration into long Facebook posts, and bright points of people trying to offer support. Eventually, I close my laptop and begin the trial of unpacking my suitcase, but once I unpack the teapot I brought on my last day in Singapore I give up unpacking and make myself tea instead.
Day three: Today was the first time I have brushed my hair since getting on the plane for Australia. I decided not to be concerned about this, and instead be proud that my hair is now brushed. Sitting on my couch I work through weeks of missed lectures and readings. I don’t think anyone has ever studied Corporations Law with this level of passion before. In the afternoon I FaceTime my best friends for a couple of hours and their presence rejuvenates me; I know we’ll support each other through this. However, I’m advised that dying my hair pink is not a sensible use of quarantine time, and they do not support this, nor me cutting my own fringe. I relax too, sleeping in, eating blueberries in bed for breakfast, reading my book. I get out my art supplies in preparation to do a watercolour painting of the view from my window in the next few days. We look out over quiet suburbs down to Blackmans Bay beach. I can’t even tell you firsthand what it’s like in Tasmania right now, since I haven’t been outside. The world out my window looks so peaceful, the ocean and sky a serene blue, unaware of our current chaos. The world is an uncertain place at the moment. All I can do is be grateful that I’m back with my family and settle down with Corporations Law and my watercolour paints to try to ride this out.
Life in lockdown. Womankind approached its community to write about life in lockdown around the globe, notably a three-day diary of everyday life under the threat of COVID-19. Womankind is publishing these stories freely to show how the pandemic is affecting women from all over the globe - from New York, to Barcelona to Glastonbury.
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